You will study two core modules:
Information Skills and Resources in Music
This module helps you to identify and access appropriate bibliographical resources, archives, and other sources of relevant information; describe in detail the process of bibliographical research and justify it; and execute a critical survey of the existing literature on a research topic.
Introduction to Music Research
This module introduces you to contemporary issues, methods, techniques and debates in music, in such areas as source studies (manuscript, printed, electronic), historical performance practice, reception history, and genre studies.
You will also choose optional modules up to the value of 80 credits – two 30-credit modules and one 20-credit module, or four 20-credit modules:
The following 30-credit modules are available –
Advanced Studies in Electroacoustic Composition
This module builds on your previous experience at Birmingham or elsewhere. It aims to expand your thinking and musical horizons through theoretical and practical work. The module includes listening, reading, programming, performance training and the use of a large range of audio software and hardware. The module contains six areas of study: sound generating, editing, mixing and processing techniques; source sound recording techniques (studio and field); approaches to spatialisation; diffusion techniques and the MiniBEAST and BEAST sound systems; advanced topics in programming for electroacoustics and digital signal processing; software critique; and repertoire studies.
Advanced Studies in Instrumental/Vocal Composition
The module contains four main areas of study: musical form (micro and macro); advanced studies in notation; repertoire studies; and relevant strands of advanced music theory. Topics covered will include proper editing and preparation of materials at a professional level, recent stylistic developments in contemporary music (e.g. post-spectralism, post-minimalism), and computer assisted composition techniques.
Contemporary Music Studies
This module studies the explosion of musical expression that characterises 20th-century and contemporary music, focusing on key movements (serialism, minimalism, etc) and concerns (tonality/atonality, aleatoric principles, etc). Starting from the musical ‘crisis’ of the early years of the 20th century, the course will address issues such as the separation of ‘art’ and ‘popular’ music, the impact of technology and the presumption of postmodernism at the start of the 21st century. The marked shift in aesthetics and music’s ‘function’ will also be discussed.
This module explores the rapidly developing field of laptop ensemble performance. The class will function as an ensemble group, working to develop and prepare repertoire for public concerts. Topics covered will include: techniques for improvisation; networked music performance; live coding; and composition for live electroacoustic ensemble. Works presented in concert will include student and group developed pieces, as well as ‘classics’ from the field. Students should have at least a rudimentary background in a computer music programming environment such as SuperCollider or Max/MSP, but the projects pursued will be selected according to the ensemble’s makeup each year.
Techniques of Music Editing
This module will show you the mechanics and transcription of early notation in the context of brief editing projects, and to apply knowledge gained in Introduction to Music Research and elective modules in understanding source traditions. You will develop skills in transcription, in the interpretation of various notations, and in the critical evaluation of different editions.
British Music Studies
This module takes the broadest perspective on modern British art music, offering case studies in the work of the ‘great composers’ of the tonal idiom such as Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten, evaluation of the Anglican choral tradition and the British symphonic tradition, examination of the problematic status of modernism in British music before 1960, and criticism of modernist and postmodernist composition since World War II. Approaches are critical, analytical and sociological, with some reception history as well. The repertory under study is mainly choral, orchestral and chamber music.
Studies in Performance Practice
This module combines the disciplines of musicology and performance, introducing you to the main topics in performance practice of western music. Case studies are devoted to Baroque, Classical, Romantic and twentieth-century music. The module will develop the skills necessary for the PhD in Performance Practice. Topics covered may include organology, rhythm and tempo, articulation, pitch and temperaments, notation, the history of recorded performance and debates around ‘authenticity’ in performance. The module shares some teaching with ‘Baroque Performance Practice’.
Sound in Society
This module provides an introduction to the field of Sound Studies, including both the conceptual framework as well as practical techniques. We will begin with an overview of the field and its formation in 2004 through a consideration of the work of Trevor Pinch, Karin Bijsterveld and R Murray Schafer. Subsequent weeks will cover topics such as: soundscapes; sound and the animal world; noise and silence in philosophy; the engineering of sound; sound and radio art; and synaesthesia research in cognitive psychology.
Special Study in Music
You will undertake a special study of a particular field of your choice under the direction of the leader of your pathway, which will typically require attendance at an appropriate series of lectures or tutorials as well as independent reading and research. Topics for study might include: vocalists in the Baroque era; topics in music analysis; or topics in critical musicology.
Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art
This module consists of a critical examination of topics in aesthetics and the philosophy of art. It considers subjects such as: art and the nature of aesthetic experience; beauty, ugliness and the sublime; symbolism and allegory; the aesthetics of modernism. At its core is an overview of the German aesthetic tradition, involving a close reading of foundational texts by Immanuel Kant, Georg Hegel and their contemporaries in the early 19th century. It will also consider work by a range of subsequent authors, such as, for example, Walter Benjamin, John Dewey, Ernst Bloch, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Theodor Adorno and Martin Heidegger. Attention will be paid not only to the conceptual arguments put forward by the thinkers in question, but also to the ways in which their theoretical tenets have underpinned the interpretation and criticism of works of art, music and literature.
The following 20-credit modules are available –
Issues in Contemporary Music
For this module you are required to attend the Music Department's COMPASS Forum series of seminars. This includes presentations by invited speakers on a variety of topics related to issues within the field of contemporary music. You will be required to write reports/critical responses for three of these presentations, and to give a short conference length presentation on your own research or a related topic. Additional information will come from a prescribed reading list consisting of key and secondary texts in the field, which will serve to inform your written work and presentations.
Musicology Research Seminar
Invited speakers from other universities will give eight musicology research seminars, each of one hour in length, followed by discussion. The seminars will provide case studies in a range of methods, techniques and philosophies in contemporary musicology. Staff of the Music Department will lead four follow-up sessions of up to one hour in length, examining the broader issues that lie behind the approaches taken in the seminars.
Introduction to Electroacoustic Composition
This module covers editing and mixing techniques using proprietary digital audio workstation software as well as sound processing techniques using plug-ins. You will also learn source sound recording techniques, an understanding of diffusion and the MiniBEAST system and listening to repertoire, with a particular emphasis on the studio techniques employed.
Introduction to Instrumental/Vocal Composition
This module will provide an opportunity to study instrumental/vocal composition for students whose main focus of postgraduate studies lies within another related area, for example electroacoustic composition. During the autumn semester, three topics related to various compositional techniques are presented in the form of the lectures, followed by related compositional exercises and workshops. During the spring semester, you will focus on development of your own ideas through the creation of a longer composition (or a number of compositions), with the individual guidance from the tutor.
Introduction to Programming for Electroacoustics
This module will explore the use of computers for the realtime and non-realtime creation of music and/ or sound installations, within a lecture/workshop environment. This will make use of the free and open source DSP and music language SuperCollider. Topics may include sound synthesis, realtime processing, interaction, the development of graphical interfaces, etc. Knowledge of computer programming and advanced maths is not a prerequisite.
Undergraduate Music module
You can also choose to take an undergraduate Music module, with the approval of the programme convenor.
You may substitute either your 20- or 30-credit optional module with a module taken from outside of Music.